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She Races on Ground and Flies Through the Air

There are those who are content being passengers – in cars or planes, for example – and then there are those who prefer to drive. Juli Harlan clearly falls into the latter category. The mother of three boys, Harlan has always felt a need for speed.

Although she prefers to motor down the scenic, twisting and challenging roads of Italy's Amalfi Coast, Harlan is content right now to keep her seven-seater Denali at a ho-hum 35 miles per hour -- or her Vespa tamed to a respectable cruising speed.

"It's got eight cylinders and lots of horsepower, and is perfect for three boys and a dog," she says of her child-friendly SUV. Retired from marriage, as she puts it, Harlan is currently in a state of reinvention.

While many post-divorced women opt for an art class or a real estate license, Harlan's mind is focused on a higher calling, of sorts. "I had always wanted to learn to fly a helicopter. So I bought the lesson from Travel Zoo and figured, "Why not?" I had only been in a helicopter once before in New Zealand, but had really liked it. "

It was, she says, "An absolute blast." She took her one-hour lesson from Wings Air at Westchester County Airport. The first section kept her on the ground for training. But the second part clearly lifted her spirits. "It was exciting, to say the least. After the whole "flight check" thing, we took off and flew out over Westchester County. Seeing the Tappan Zee Bridge from the air of an open helicopter was quite a thrill. The doors of the helicopter were off, which was scary at first, but really nice once we got up in the air."

A native of Newport Beach, Cal., Harlan traveled extensively throughout world, spending an abundance of time in New Zealand and Australia. She then landed a modeling contract in Greece and stayed there for a year before heading back to California. She moved to Connecticut in 1998 with her three boys, now 12, 14 and 16.

But throughout her world travels she never lost her love of the open road, a passion that began at an early age. Her mother owned, on various occasions, a red Corvair, a gold Mercury Cougar convertible and a Corvette, which her father used to "put through its paces," she said. "My dad used to joke that he was driving fast to clear out the engine." When she turned 16 and got her driver's license, it was the beginning of her "true love for fast, sexy cars."

Cars have always symbolized freedom to Harlan. Her father, a Navy pilot during World War II, "Loved anything fast: roller coasters, cars airplanes and boats," she says. "We did a lot together and I believe I inherited his love of fast cars."

As to her dream car, she has a list that's topped by a 1950s Fiat Jolly and a 2011 Aston Martin Vantage. But for now, she'll take the high road – the really high one, without the stoplights – and continue seeking the thrill of a fast ride.

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